Alfred Wicks

Alfred Wicks, "Ben," cartoonist (b at London, Eng 1 Oct 1926; d at Toronto 10 Sept 2000). His caricatures weren't sophisticated, but his satire was trenchant. "Actually I am rotten at drawing," he cheerfully admitted.

Outcasts, The
Cartoon by Ben Wicks (courtesy National Archives of Canada/C-141228).

Alfred Wicks, "Ben," cartoonist (b at London, Eng 1 Oct 1926; d at Toronto 10 Sept 2000). Cockney-born creator of the syndicated cartoon strip "The Outcasts," Wicks was a self-taught illustrator who quit school at 14 to work as a bootmaker, shipping clerk and barrow salesman. He joined the British Army and later learned to play the saxophone and clarinet. After the war he was a professional musician with the orchestra aboard the Cunard luxury liner Queen Elizabeth. The name "Ben" was a pseudonym: one bandleader nicknamed him after Benny Goodman and the name stuck. Wicks took a few art lessons at London's Camberwell Art School but didn't seriously consider drawing until he emigrated to Calgary in 1957. He was delivering milk there in 1962 when he sold his first cartoon to The Saturday Evening Post. After several of his cartoons were published in The Albertan he moved to Toronto, where his one-column cartoon was syndicated by The Toronto Telegram and eventually picked up by more than 200 newspapers in North America and Europe.

His caricatures weren't sophisticated, but his satire was trenchant. "Actually I am rotten at drawing," he cheerfully admitted. A prolific author, cartoonist and entertainer, he wrote and illustrated numerous books, including Ben Wicks' Canada, Ben Wicks' Etiquette and Ben Wicks' Women, and wrote a series of books to promote family literacy, including Born to Read and Write and Count. Wicks has also written a number of books concerning the effects of World War II on ordinary people's lives, including No Time to Wave Goodbye (1988), The Day They Took the Children (1989) and Nell's War (1990). He had his own television program, experimented with animated cartoons, was a major force behind the Canadian Chess Challenge, and teamed up with his wife, a citizenship court judge, to establish several charitable foundations to fight poverty, illiteracy and malnutrition. He was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1986. Wicks's autobiography, Master of None: The Story of Me Life, was published in 1995.

See also Political Cartoons.